PALMETTO — About 200 of his children showed up.
Between wreaths of flowers and before bagpipes accompanied an "Amazing Grace" singing solo, the tae kwon do students spoke of their teacher and master Ken Ellis, a second father to some, a first father for others.
Family to all who knew him.
Ellis, the students said, never encouraged selfishness, aggressiveness or violence. Instead, similar to his smile that graced his portrait displayed before some 1,500 at the Manatee County Civic Center on Wednesday, he taught gentleness and control.
They celebrated the life of Ellis, 61, a teacher at Manatee School for the Arts who was shot and killed last Wednesday at his North Port home. Detectives are still pursuing leads in the case but have made no arrests, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.
One hour of testimonies regarding Ellis spoke of eternity: How those things Ellis taught, beyond kicks and punches and kihaps, would live through generations; that his Christian spirit flooded the auditorium and stained the hearts of those whom he knew. And the shout from the lungs of his students — the final kihap delivered at the command of speaker David Pole — may find no ending.
How about Kirsten Harmon's smile? Well, she made her tae kwon do master a promise.
"If I could speak about all the things I learned from him in the past nine years, I could speak to you guys for days," Harmon said to the crowd. "When my world was coming down, was clouded in sadness, he helped me find my smile. And I promised him from that point I'd never lose it again."
Said student Jake Smith: "The world will regret taking his life."
His students wished such lives as the one Ellis lived were abundant in the world. Jamie Roelle, for one, recalled this the last time she spoke to Ellis.
"I told him, 'I wish there were more people like you in the world,' " Roelle said. "He said, 'Now, Jamie, that would make this world pretty boring don't you think?' "
A humble, controlled strength. Meekness defined. This is how they spoke of Ellis.
After one final bow to the stage, those students filed out of the auditorium. Hundreds of students forever ingrained with the principles of W. Kenneth Ellis surged back into the world. Their father is gone.
But the light-saber, as they said, has been passed.